Paarth Madan

A medium to iterate on my own thoughts.

An Addiction to Music

Posted at — Mar 11, 2020

I think I’m genuinely addicted to listening to music. I’m not using the word addiction synonymously for enjoyment. While I do enjoy music, I’ve chosen the word addiction, specifically, to magnify the dependence on, and consequent disappointment when prevented from, listening to music.

The other day I walked into the gym, and as I walked through the entrance I realized that I forgot my headphones.

I don’t usually express my emotions physically, especially alone and in public, but I remember I let out a visible sigh, and muttered an expletive.

I realized, then, that I’ve created an immense dependence on listening to music, and I’m using this post to do an analysis on this relationship, with the hopes of lessening its importance and creating detachment.

To start, I think it’s important to explore what exactly the activity of listening to music looks like, for me.

I listen to music using my over-ear noise cancelling headphones, almost everywhere other than my car. I also play music out loud using my phone, while brushing, or showering. I listen to music at the gym, during my commute, at work while coding, while studying, and pretty much anytime on my laptop.

One factor that I think is particular important is the noise-cancelling feature of my headphones. When paired with an additional activity, like going to the gym, I find it really removes me from my environment. I seem to enter a haze where time seems to slip away. I tend to enter a passive state, where my full focus is not on the task at hand.

I tend to listen to rap music, but the caveat is that I find myself listening to the same music by the same artists, all the time. Now, I do enjoy listening to these songs, but there is a level of staleness and dullness associated with listening to them, because the novelty no longer exists. I no longer need to actively process the music, because it’s known. It’s deterministic. I know what the artist is going to say next, I know when the beat will drop, and I know what song will play next in the album.

It makes sense then, that, if the way I’m listening to music is on cruise control that I will also feel that way. While this may appear obvious, it’s only occurred to me now, writing this post, that maybe the solution is to listen to new, unfamiliar songs.

I think the overarching problem I’ve identified by listening to music this way, is the aversion to being present. The feeling of time slipping away, the feeling of time going by quickly without being noticed. I could have a 2 hour gym session that feels like it flew by in an instant, because I’m not exercising in a present manner.

The ability to perform at a high level hinges on the amount of focus being allocated to that activity, I think. I’ve observed that the intensity and strength exerted from my body is directly related to the state of mind when performing that exercise. I think music plays a big role in this.

Where the addiction portion comes in, is the disappointment I felt. Being disappointed is effectively saying that, “I will not be happy until [condition]”. Framing desire, and disappointment in this simple statement usually instantly magnifies how useless this attachment is. To say that I won’t be happy because I forgot my headphones is ridiculous, and yet, at that moment is what I exhibited.

Moreover, and perhaps scarier, is that the addiction is not rooted at listening to music, but rather to the feeling of entering the passive state, and escaping the present. Being present is hard, and difficult. It requires practice, focus and control. The body and the mind are conditioned to take the easier route, and perhaps that’s where the desire comes from.

Like with anything, though, with practice things become easier, and more frictionless. Ideally, being present is easier than the contrary, and exercises like these are steps in making it easier.

This post, really, is a tool. A medium to lay out why there’s a feeling of dependence on music, and perhaps why my mind created that dependence in the first place. By breaking down into the simple question of whether I’m willing to let it be a thing that disappoints me is a way to stop it from becoming one.

I think it’s important to layout some actionable items that can be derived from this reflection:

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